Freestyle. A way of skiing and a way of making a pie, so it seems.
This September, I had the honor of making a couple of pies for my oldest brother’s wedding. Can you believe it? I was totally honored and of course… freaking out. I mean, pie!? For a wedding!? No pressure. So I kept it simple. Pie can elude me… I’m not always on the mark, but since I had a little time before the big day I made a test pie (pat on back) because this is a lesson I’m learning: don’t feed people your experiments on special occasions. At least, not people you want to bake for again.
I wanted a pie that would embody my brother. He’s totally casual and super low key, but sharp and on point. I needed a thoughtful flavor profile without over thinking it. Something not too sweet, but just good.
This pie is it. Apple: straightforward. No pie plate: easy (the cake stand is my flourish) . Tastes great: no brainer. Advice from Dan: keep it simple, check the weather, and go. Pack light would probably also be his advice, but that’s one I just can’t seem to follow.
This one starts like all pies. With the CRUST!
My favorite crust for this is made in the food processor.
Form it into a ball:
Chill the crust and make the filling!
This test pie was originally made with regular sugar, but brown sugar worked better in the second tart so that’s what’s in the recipe. In a pinch, I would say either way is delicious.
When the crust is all chilled, you roll out one disc. You can save the other one in the freezer for up to a few months.
One of the tricky parts about making pies can be getting the crust to the pie dish or pan. I have a trick I use and it works every time! I simple call it the rolling pin trick. Here’s how you do it:
The Rolling Pin Trick:
1. Place the rolling pin in the center of the pie crust circle and fold the top half of the crust over the rolling pin.
2. Fold the bottom half over so it’s on top. Like you’re folding a letter.
3. Transport to the pan: grab both handles and use your thumbs to stabilize the rolling part of the rolling pin so it doesn’t roll around on you. Bring the dough package to the center of the pan and set it down.
4. Gently unfold the bottom, and then the top and remove the rolling pin.
Seriously, this helps you center the dough and get it there in one piece!
Now you are ready to assemble. Again, this tart is easy, so by assemble I mean “dump”. You can choose to artfully arrange the apples, but I like the big pile of apples this makes when you just dump it in a big pile in the center. It looks rustic and effortless. These apples look a mile high:
Spread the filling out, leaving a 2-3 inch border of dough and fold the edges up around the apples. Add extra cinnamon if you love it as much as I do.
Brush the dough with cream and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Dot with the small pieces of butter.
Dan, here you go. Happy nuptials!
Free Style Apple Tart
Adapted from Food & Wine
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest plus 2 teaspoons juice
4 Granny Smith apples—peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of sea salt or kosher salt
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons heavy cream, for brushing
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
Pulse flour and salt in a food processor to combine. Add the butter and pulse a few times until the mixture resembles course crumbs with some larger pieces. Evenly drizzle 1/4 cup ice water over the mixture and pulse again until the dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed. If the dough is too dry, add a little more ice water, but no more then 1/4 cup and pulse to combine.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently bring it together in a ball. Divide it in half and shape into two disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour or up to 1 day. You can also freeze up to 1 month; thaw overnight in the fridge before using. You will only need one disk for this tart, so you can save the other disk for later.
While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 400° and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a large round, about 14-15 inches and 1/4 inch thick.
Transfer the dough to the cookie sheet by using the rolling pin trick: place a rolling pin across the center of the dough and folding the top half of the dough over the rolling pin. Fold the lower half of the dough over that and stabilize the rolling pin by holding both handles and using your thumbs to keep it from turning, bring the folded rolling pin dough to the baking sheet. Set the rolling pin down in the middle of the baking sheet, and starting with the lower half of the dough, unfold from the rolling pin. Set rolling pin aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar with the lemon zest, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla and a pinch of salt. Add the apples and lemon juice and toss well. You can either arrange the apples on the dough in 2 concentric circles, leaving a 3-inch border all around, or you can simply pile up the apples in the middle of the dough round, still leaving a border. Fold the edge of the dough up and over the apples, overlapping the dough on itself as needed. Brush the rim with the heavy cream and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar.
Bake the pie in the center of the oven until the crust is golden and firm and the apples are tender, about 55 minutes. 40 minutes in to the baking time, you may need to tent the tart with foil to avoid over browning.
When it’s golden brown and the apples look cooked, transfer the cookie sheet to a rack to cool for about 10 minutes. Slide the pie onto a pie plate if desired, or just cut into wedges and serve. The tart will last covered in the fridge for a week.